Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is giving a speech for the first time following unrest and the massacre of protesters.
Assad blamed the unrest on foreign conspiracy. He says the killing of protesters was regrettable, but: “Let it be bloodshed that unites us.”
Assad says there will be reforms including the lifting of emergency laws, but that these reforms have been in the works for a decade and will not be rushed.
“The satellite channels will say this is not enough, but I say we will not destroy our nation.”
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More from the speech:
This is an exceptional moment… a test to our unity… repeated frequently due to conspiracies against our union… but thanks to the will of God we always overcome.
We have been a strong, solid rock to defend the nation.
I belong to the Syrian people and whoever belongs to the Syrian people will always keep his head high.
It is my duty to secure the liberty of Syria.
Assad says he waited on this talk until the situation had become clear in his mind.
This is a time when our enemies are working very hard to strike against Syria.
It’s not a secret that there have been major changes in the region that will have an impact on many nations. Syria is among those nations… but what has happened actually boosts the Syrian view… The popular opinion in the Arab street that has been marginalized for decades is coming back to the heart of things.
Even if I accepted with these dialogues, I will not be approved by my own people…
Our domestic policy has been to open up to the world and communicate between the government and the people… Our foreign policy has been to support Arab resistance when there is occupation… The compass for us remains the Arab people.
Seven minutes into the speech and no talk of reform yet.
It is not a secret that Syria is being subjected to an international conspiracy.
Always the conspirators are a minority. Even we in the state didn’t know what was going on until the sabotage began. Some of the satellite channels have said in certain places there was sabotage, but there announcement of the event took place before the destruction took place, so we know that it was pre-planned.
Now Assad is blaming unrest on sectarian strife, not anti-government sentiment.
A woman in the parliament shouts something about “the blood of the martyrs of Deraa” and says all the people stand behind Assad. The crowd begins to clap and chant.
Soldiers were given specific instructions not to injure anyone, but in the chaos mistakes occurred… if there has been bloodshed, let it be bloodshed that unites us… There is chaos in the country under the pretext of reform.
Qaddafi says they managed to withstand a similar conspiracy in 2005.
We’re talking about transformation in the region at large, a wave that is removing leaders. When it comes to Syria we must ask if this wave is leading us or are we leading it.
Assad mentions talk of reform and lifting the state of emergency, but he asks if this talk of reform is a hasty response to chaos. He says reform as a response to popular pressure is a sign of weakness, especially if that pressure comes from foreign parties.
Assad says “we do need reforms,” but these reforms have been in the works since 2005. He says the roots of reform go back to decisions he made in 2000. But Syria’s priorities changed during this period following 9/11 and international pressure, war in Lebanon, and a four year drought. “Anyone who was 10 is now 20.”
Syria’s priorities during this time were security and public welfare. “We can postpone a statement by a politician, but we cannot delay getting food to a sick child.”
Reform is not just a seasonal issue… I have already started reforming Egypt and I have the plan and the intention. We had all our programs in place… There are no hurdles, there are delays, but those who oppose reform are a small minority… Our reform should be a response to 10 years in the past and 10 years in the future, not a single crisis… We will stay on the course of reform, and if we did not we would be on the path to destruction.
Assad says various new reforms will be announced, including salary increases and job opportunities and a group of economic bills. He says we will put a timetable for each of these reforms, and the parliament will make sure this timetable is maintained. “We want to expedite but not hasten the reform… Some people on the satellite channels will say this is not enough, and I will say we will not destroy our nation. Do not be mislead by these satellite channels.”
Assad says the Bush administration said the invasion of Iraq would have a domino effect in the Middle East, but the opposite has happened and Syria is stronger than ever.
He’s done and the crowd goes wild.
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